There are 3 primary lifts used to assess maximal strength – The Back Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift.
These are the same 3 lifts used in the sport of powerlifting, and their combined total is is a useful measure of how strong an athlete is. Keep in mind that 1 rep maxes assess maximal strength (the ability to exert a maximal amount of force) which is much different than strength endurance (the ability to exert force repeatedly).
There are other lifts that you can use such as the Front Squat and Overhead Press, as well as the Clean, Snatch, and their variations. Each lift will be favored differently by each coach, and athlete.
WHY DO WE DO IT?
When it comes to training lower body strength there are 2 primary movements we can use – squatting and lunging. We use both types of movements frequently but when it comes to developing maximal strength the squatting movements are far superior than the lunging ones. The bi-lateral nature of the lift allows the athlete to use a much heavier load, which incurs more stress, which elicits a stronger adaptation.
Typically we rotate which squat we do from program to program to keep athlete interest high. The adaptations from training the two are almost exactly the same, but the Back Squat will always be a stronger lift due to the more optimal bar position in the Back Squat.
By assessing this lift, we are able to prescribe training intensities not only for the back squat, but for any lower body movement or complex we train. For example we used Back Squat 1 rep maxes to determine the appropriate loading for the Jump Lunge Assessment during the Triumvirate Macrocycle.
We ran our athletes through a second version of INDOC not too long ago and their numbers are below. Keep in mind that this was before we did the Rising Sun Macro-cycle which yielded an average improvement of 25lbs, so these numbers are what you’d see before stepping into a structured strength cycle.
The group tested was every day athletes of various genders, age, and experience levels.
RESULTS IN OUR GYM
|Category||Avg. Back Squat (lbs)||Avg. BS CO-EF|
|Training Experience 3+ Years||310.00||1.61|
|Training Experience 1-3 Years||292.38||1.50|
|Training Experience 0-1 Year||260.29||1.41|
|Build 3 – Thick (242.88lbs)||363.75||1.55|
|Build 2 – Average (182.74lbs)||293.55||1.61|
|Build 1 – Thin (167.96lbs)||246.96||1.48|
|Category||Avg. Back Squat (lbs)||Avg. BS CO-EF|
|Training Experience 3+ Years||184.44||1.24|
|Training Experience 1-3 Years||152.86||1.16|
|Training Experience 0-1 Year||138.57||0.92|
|Build 3 – Thick(166.75lbs)||181.25||1.10|
|Build 2 – Average (139.00lbs)||176.18||1.21|
|Build 1 – Thin – (134.15lbs)||130.71||1.10|
WHAT WE FOUND
Experienced athletes had higher averages and coefficients. This one is pretty obvious as newer athletes aren’t going to be as proficient with the lift as experienced athletes will be.
Another obvious result we gathered was our athletes with bigger builds, on average, moved more weight. However, athletes with an average build had a higher coefficient, both male and female. This is because athletes with thicker builds most likely had higher amounts of body fat which negatively impacts relative strength.
Male athletes in their 30’s were on average the strongest and had the highest coefficients, this is because the majority of our athletes are males in their 30’s. Females in their 20’s, however, were on average the strongest and had the highest coefficients.
Upon completion of our Rising Sun Macrocycle we saw some pretty impressive increases in our 1RM’s, especially on the Back Squat. These assessment numbers are based off of over 100 athletes who tested at the beginning and end of this 12 week macrocycle.
BEST BACK SQUAT COEFFICIENT – MALE: 2.48
BEST BACK SQUAT COEFFICIENT – FEMALE: 2.04
HEAVIEST BACK SQUAT – MALE: 420lbs
HEAVIEST BACK SQUAT – FEMALE: 270lbs
LARGEST IMPROVEMENT – MALE: 60lbs
LARGEST IMPROVEMENT – FEMALE: 40lbs
AVERAGE IMPROVEMENT – MALE: 29lbs
AVERAGE IMPROVEMENT – FEMALE: 22lbs
HOW TO FIND YOUR 1RM
Warm-up: 5 rounds
10-8-6-4-2 Back Squat
5x Jump Squats
5x Hydrant e/s
Start light (65-115lbs) and increase 10-30lbs each round. As you add weight the number of reps you do will decrease (10 on round 1, then 8 on round 2, etc)
After all 5 rounds are complete you’ll add 10-30 lbs and do a single, then rest 1 to 2 minutes.
Repeat this process until you hit failure or complete a rep that is so hard that you are confident you cannot increase loading.
Weigh yourself without shoes, then do the math to find your coefficient.
Back Squat Coefficient = Back Squat 1RM / Bodyweight
If you’re the kind of person that likes to film yourself doing epic shit then don’t be afraid to post it on Instagram and tag Atomic Athlete. Make sure to include your weight, Back Squat 1 RM, and Coefficient.
Don’t know how Back Squat?
HERE IS A VIDEO
While working up in weight to find 1RM make sure you do enough to properly warmup your central nervous system and your muscles but don’t do so many reps that you tire yourself out before you even get to attempt your 1RM. The method from above is what we have found to work best, but listen to your body while doing your workup. Some athletes need more reps, some need less.
HAVE A SPOTTER!! Once you get into heavy singles you should have a capable spotter or do this in a rack with safety hooks.
Video yourself to ensure you are hitting full depth, as the load gets heavier athletes tend to squat shallower and not hit full depth (femurs parallel, hips below kneecaps).
Expect the bar to slow down one it gets heavy. Many athletes take a decrease in bar speed to mean that they are about to fail. This is not always the case. When the bar slows down, you need to PUSH HARDER. Don’t just mentally quit once it slows down!